MAKING OUR WAY TO THE OLD CITY
Michael and David’s day begins with an early morning workout to justify the sumptuous Inbal Hotel breakfast. We won’t remember the “state of the art” workout facilities described in the hotel brochure, but we will remember a kippah being used to reserve a weight machine, and a conservatively-dressed Orthodox woman running at a healthy clip on the treadmill.
We sing “Ozi v’Zimmat Ya (“God is my strength and my song.”) on the way to the Jewish Quarter, entering via the Zion Gate. This is where the Palmach were ambushed while they slept in 1948, losing the Jewish Quarter for another 19 years. Rabbi Gruschow’s lesson: don’t fall asleep in Jerusalem.
THE WAILING WALL
The Jewish Quarter feels fresh and new even though it is faithfully in Jerusalem stone, because it had to be fully rebuilt, having been razed to the ground by Jordan in 1948. The focal point for the Jewish people is the Kotel (Western Wall). The emotion of visiting the wall prompts David to put on tefillin for the first time in 40 years. Michael (“Moshe”) opts o ut of the tefillin, having had his fill at the YMHA 10 years previously.
Being a Bar-Mitzvah day, the Kotel is even more noisy and festive than usual. A promenade of Bar-Mitzvah boys under chuppahs includes shofars, drums and balloons released into the sky. Women are separate from the men but peer over the divide to clap, ululate and throw candy. We will later visit the “egalitarian” section of the wall, where men and women are free to pray together. A family celebrates their boy’s bar-mitzvah without divisions.
40 soldiers with rifles and packs set up for a swearing in ceremony at the end of basic training.
A young man touches the wall and prays for his father, who sits behind him in a wheelchair, barely able to move.
An old man sits near the wall, wrapped in tefillin and appears from behind to be praying deeply. Turns out he is straining to check stock quotes on his IPhone.
A visit to the Western Wall tunnel provides a welcome break from the sweltering Jerusalem sun. We wander through a 488-metre tunnel, walking in the footsteps of Jews who met at the Temple thousands of years ago.
CHATTING WITH A BRAVE BLOGGER
We then went through a bustling row of market stalls filled with people. Sarah Tuttle-Singer, who blogs about Jerusalem for the Israel Times, took us to the “best view of the old city” at the top of a Hotel. The hotel had the following rules:
- NO DRINKING
- NO SMOKING
- UNMARRIED COUPLES MAY NOT STAY IN THE SAME ROOM
Sarah explains to the group how she listens to a diverse group of Jerusalemites’ stories, never passing judgment, but also relying on an innate sense of when a situation is dangerous.
The evening ends with an elaborate light and music show in the Citadel of David, taking us through the turbulent history of Jerusalem.